Major Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a New Phone System for a Law Office

By Vincent Finaldi

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with many law firms primarily located in Northern or Central New Jersey.  These law firms have ranged in overall size, from scaled multisite law offices with decades of experience to startup firms looking to build a new practice.

Regardless of firm size or type of law being practiced, I’ve come across some problematic buying behaviors common among these law firms.  I want to share these with you so your firm doesn’t inadvertently make the wrong phone-related decision.  Remember, phone systems are long-term investments, and it’s often not easy to undo a decision once it’s finalized.

There are four major mistakes I’ve seen law firms make when buying a new phone system, and these mistakes often hurt the firm’s reputation with clients, as well as annoy the entire office staff to no end.

Mistake 1: Sharing Your Phone with Computer Cabling

We recommend not installing new IP phones over your existing computer cabling network.  There are a few technical reasons to avoid this, but the main one is your phone and computer network are more prone to technical errors.  When that happens, IT/phone vendors are more inclined to point fingers.  (Check out this blog to learn more.) 

Mistake 2: Installing VoIP Phones over a Shared Internet Circuit

If you’re a scaled practice with about thirty or more employees, this applies to you.  It’s critical to understand that VoIP phone technology functions over the Internet.  If you’re unaware, take a moment to learn what Internet service(s) your firm is running, and be sure to have the VoIP phones function over a dedicated Internet circuit.  This helps guarantee quality.

Another option is for the VoIP phones to function over a dedicated fiber-optic or cable circuit that is not shared with your IT network and data traffic.  The main idea is to have a dedicated Internet source for the VoIP phones—one that isn’t shared with general Internet traffic.

Mistake 3: Being Unaware of Existing Agreements

It’s very important to know what agreements you signed, even if it was many years ago.  T1 providers are notorious for automatically renewing your agreement if you forget to notify them you want out, and it’s very aggravating and time-consuming to fight.  (For more information, check out this blog on the top five things to consider before buying a VoIP phone system.) 

There are three agreements to be aware of before your firm can upgrade or replace its phone technology:

  • T1 or Phone Line Agreement (Your Voice Carrier)

Tip: If you don’t want your contract to be automatically renewed, notify your T1 provider at least ninety days before the end of that agreement.

  • Fiber/Internet Agreement
  • Phone Hardware Maintenance Plan Agreement

Ask your current phone vendor for the terms of the support agreement.  This is usually annual, but some could be longer, especially if there’s a third-party lease company involved.

Mistake 4: Leaving Your Outsourced IT Partner Out of the Decision-Making Process

If your firm is in the market to upgrade a phone system, we recommend including your outsourced IT partner early in the process.  Even if you have in-house IT, including outside technical counsel can provide you with a broader perspective. 

There are a few important reasons to include your IT partner in this process:

  • It frees up key players in your firm (firm administrators, office managers, partners and more) from getting bogged down in technical jargon.  The quickest way to lose a managing partner’s interest is to ask his or her opinion on network switches and routers.  Let the “speeds and feeds” conversation happen early.  Don’t waste your precious mental energy on trying to figure out technical hardware design.
  • Your outsourced IT partner is exposed to many phone vendors and can help you differentiate between great service providers and average ones.
  • Your IT partner can determine quickly if the phone vendor is incompetent or not a good fit for your company.

Again, before you embark on evaluating new phone systems and partners, remember to include your outsourced IT partner, know what agreements you already signed and don’t cut corners by sharing the cabling and Internet.

Vincent Finaldi is Vice-President of Tele-Data Solutions.  Tele-Data Solutions began in 1982 when Michael Finaldi founded it in Union, New Jersey.  From traditional on-premises phone systems to the cloud-based VoIP systems of today, the company has consistently grown and evolved with the technology.  Through it all, the core value has always been to service the client above all else.  Vincent may be reached at [email protected]. 

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